Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Pouring Gasoline on a Fire

Pamela Geller, Co-founder of AFDI
I don’t know whether Pamela Geller is a fool or just plain evil. But one thing she is for sure is wrong. And I am outraged by her tactics.

Pamela Geller was one of the organizers of an event in Garland, Texas last Sunday that was attacked by 2 homegrown Islamic terrorists.  They were not successful having been shot and killed by police before they entered the building.  They were said to have been inspired by Islamic State (IS) or like minded Jihadist groups via social media. Which has been urging sympathizers across the globe to become martyrs for God in the cause of Islam. (IS has claimed credit for the attack but to the best of my knowledge there is no evidence of any direct connection.)

There are few rational people in the world that justify what these 2 terrorists tried to do. Including the vast majority of  Muslims. They were unquestioningly evil - despite the fact that they believed they were defending the honor of Islam. But does that make what Pamela Geller did OK? Not in my view.

The attack was precipitated by Ms. Geller and friends by basically spitting in the face of Islam and calling it free speech. She may have that right. Free speech is protected in this country no matter how hateful it is. Unless it can cause harm to the public. Like yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater when there is no actual fire. The question is, was that the case here? Was what Ms. Geller did here comparable to that?

The event she and others hosted was a contest to see who would create the best caricature of the Islam’s founder, Muhammad. Drawing images of Muhammad is at the very least frowned upon if not outright forbidden by Islamic law.  And if it is done in any kind for disrespectful way, it is a cause of great outrage. 

Which will inspire a few of the Jihadists among them to try and murder those who do . By now that is no secret. That’s what precipitated the massacre at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last January in France. Over the years they had published a series of embarrassing caricatures of Muhammad. And they were not the first to experience terror as the result of insulting Islam’s founder.

Now Pamela Geller has decided to join the fray. She is the co-founder (along with Robert Spencer) of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). Although she vigorously denies it, it is hard to see them as anything other than a hate group that goes out of its way to insult Muslims.

What possible motive could she have had in holding a competition like this? Protecting free speech? Free speech was doing just fine before she started disparaging other religions. By holding this competition she is perceived even by decent Muslims to be spitting in their face! It is pure folly to do that, not only because you are daring extremists to massacre you, your fellow organizers and participants... but because it is reprehensible to publicly disparage the icons of other religions. It spreads hate and generates retaliation from Jihadists all too eager exact revenge.  Which is what happened at Charlie Hebdo in France. And was attempted in Garland, Texas.

Just because there is a right to publicly disparage religions as a matter of free speech, doesn’t mean it should be done. Having the right to do something does not automatically make it morally acceptable. Nor does it make it smart. It is wrong and counterproductive.

That said, I am not being naïve about Jihadist terror. It exists and will continue to exist with or without AFDI and Ms.  Geller. It is even spreading. Islamic Jihadism is a real threat to freedom and our way of life. It needs to be vigorously fought by all means at our disposal - and ultimately eradicated.  We cannot allow attacks like this to succeed. Jihadists are surely motivated to keep trying until they succeed at massacring large numbers of innocent people in America - just as they have in France. We have to be ever vigilant. This is a war that we cannot afford to lose.

But you don’t win wars by pouring gasoline on a fire. That’s what Pamela is doing with her group. And she ought to stop.